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‘Lion’ set to roar at Radio City

Records are made to be broken, but it’s going to be awfully hard to top the $ 3 million gross expected in the first week of “The Lion King’s” Radio City Music Hall engagement in New York. With a show rife with Rockettes, ticket prices are also heading skyward. Adults will be shelling out $ 26, while seniors and kids get in for $ 21.

Disney unleashes “The Lion King” with two exclusive engagements on June 15. In L.A., the venue is Pacific’s El Capitan.

With about 5,000 usable seats, legit theater-priced tickets and plans for four shows daily — those elaborate Rockette shows cut into the number of daily screenings — a capacity crowd would generate at least a $ 3 million gross in a week. According to Disney sources, tickets are selling well for the Radio City engagement, despite the higher-than-usual price.

Those numbers can’t help but overwhelm what would otherwise be a notable performance at the El Cap in Hollywood. Since it was refurbished three years ago , it has been host to the new Disney animated hits. “Aladdin” grossed $ 250,000 in its first full week at the theater — a record for L.A. “The Lion King” is certain to top that figure.

With seven weeks until blastoff, advance tickets for the film and live stage show are moving briskly with several weekend performances already sold out. The combo goes for a $ 10 adult tab and $ 6 for children and seniors.

Jerry Forman of Pacific Theaters said it’s the first time the special pricing has been instituted. He insists it’s an absolute rock bottom fee and, considering past El Cap/Disney revues, who could possibly argue. If the first week attracted 100% low ticket buyers, the seven-day gross would be $ 300,000.

Data freaks be warned that it will be tough to top the per-screens for the opener. Even with the El Cap’s comparatively modest contribution, we’re looking at perhaps a staggering $ 2 million average.

When asked whether Disney felt it had outgrown its regular L.A. venue, Buena Vista chief Dick Cook joked, “Where should we go … the Shrine?” Or maybe he wasn’t kidding.

CAPTAINS OF (MOVIE) INDUSTRY: Thar shore has been a lotta rockin’ going on to get Hollywood Pictures’ “Crimson Tide” its sea legs. But now that Al Pacino has agreed to set sail on the project, it is full steam ahead.

The Simpson/Bruckheimer production for Disney has been described as “Caine Mutiny” meets “Hunt for Red October.” Michael Shiffer’s script presents a battle of wills between a vet Navy sub commander and an ambitious officer that comes to a head when orders arrive to release missiles on Russian subversives.

Warren Beatty was touted to star and Quentin Tarantino enlisted to do a high-gloss polish. But Beatty, who’s in post-production on “Love Affair,” backed off on the prospect of a submerged summer.

Just when it appeared to be scuttled, Pacino stepped in for the Queegish role. The producers, as well as director Tony Scott, are pushing to begin in June. Pacino has a date set in (Oliver) Stone to play “Noriega” in the fall.

The reported short list to play the aspiring Admiral is comprised of Andy Garcia, Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt.

BEGINNER’S LUCK? Are the cracks starting to appear in the longest-running creative partnership in filmdom? Ismail Merchant, the producing half of Merchant/Ivory, just walked off with four awards — including best film in Urdu — at the National Film awards of India. More important, Merchant was named best director for “In Custody” (Muhafiz), his first crack at calling the shots for a fiction feature.

“You can’t imagine what this does for a young director’s career,” said Ivory (not at all seriously) from London. “I’ve been very lucky. My first short back in 1960 was nominated for an Oscar. Now, to win all these prizes in India where none of our films has ever received any awards is very emotional.”

Merchant is wearing his more traditional hat on “Jefferson in Paris,” filming , naturally, in the U.K. Rumors that he was producing a musical version of “Maurice” (which they filmed in 1987) for Broadway are untrue. He’s too busy. Among other ventures, the epicure’s latest culinary tome, “Ismail Merchant’s Florence,” is about to hit the bookstands.

And are there other directing gigs in the offing?

“I told James (Ivory) that I was buying the rights to a V.S. Naipul book as my next project and, even though he was very supportive and helpful on the first film, he seemed a little concerned,” said Merchant. “I think he was relieved to learn my idea of soon is probably three years away.”

The back-burner property is “Mystic Masseuse,” set among Trinidad’s India community.

SURE DO TALK GOOD: Ray Conlogue of Canada’s premier paper the Toronto Globe and Mail recently made mention of this journal in his review of the Canadian movie “Louis 19.” He wrote, “A new comedy released two weeks ago in Quebec is selling so well that it has winkled its way into Variety’s list of top-selling North American films.”

Suffice it to say Mr. C probably means top-grossing, but we wrinkled at winkled. Fortunately Webster’s New World came through. Its colloquial meaning is “to pry or rout from cover” and is always, always used with “out” or “out of.” You can breathe easy, Mr. Safire.

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